Why I Spoke Out About One Rape but Stayed Silent About Another

Why I Spoke Out About One Rape but Stayed Silent About Another

Susan J. Brison is a Professor of Philosophy at Dartmouth College and author of Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self.

Decades ago, we didn’t call rape by a date or acquaintance ‘rape’–so what was there to report?

In one, I was 35, on a morning walk in France, when a stranger jumped me from behind, beat, raped, repeatedly choked me into unconsciousness, hit me with a rock, and left me for dead at the bottom of a ravine. I reported it, spoke out about it, and wrote a book about it. My account of what happened was believed, and my assailant, who would have been prosecuted even if I hadn’t pressed charges, was found guilty of rape and attempted murder.

In the other, I was 20, asleep in my dorm room in England, when a man I knew knocked on my door. I let him in and he raped me. I didn’t tell anyone. Afterwards, I stopped going to classes and, when I didn’t get my period for two months, I thought I was pregnant and became suicidal. I never reported it, told no one about it until many years later, and, even then, didn’t call what happened “rape.” I didn’t talk about it publicly until three years ago, and haven’t published anything about it until now.

As more women come forward to accuse Bill Cosby of raping them, they are being asked: “Why did you stay silent so long?” And as more college students are speaking out about having been raped on campuses across the country, they are being asked: “Why didn’t you report it right away? Why didn’t you go to the police?”

Asking these questions of rape survivors is like asking survivors of domestic violence “Why did you stay?” It betrays a lack of empathy with rape victims and ignorance of the numerous, and frequently insurmountable, obstacles that keep them from speaking out.

And, as has been public knowledge for years, some of Cosby’s alleged victims did speak out. Read full article.

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